Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summer of Murph Cont'd

In all the years I have been in the workplace, I have been waiting to get an invite to a golf tournament on behalf of the company.  During this insanely busy period of time, guess who finally got an invite and had to turn it down today?

Clubs still in the trunk,

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Summer of Murph

I am writing this entry as I sit outside my office on the back end of a 13 hour day.  The thought of jumping on the subway right away and not being outside at all today was driving me crazy.  I wore sunglasses to work this morning… don’t need them heading home.  This guy over here got himself a job where the peak time of year is the 4 weeks that run between the mid-points of July and August.  Where was this information in the job posting?  I would much rather spend my free time up to my eyeballs dealing with crappy planning systems then out with friends enjoying the nicest part of the year in this country.  This also explains why the posts have been infrequent.  Something that will be rectified once I am on the other side of the tunnel.
You might say, “I’m sure you’re not alone in this predicament.”  And I am sure you are correct.  But I have been proactive this year to try and avoid the long hours as much as possible.  I am currently dealing with a new system (the 2nd new system in 2 years built to do the same task, just for the record) and guess who is the only one having input problems?  Guess who no one seems to be able to help out in terms of solving this problem?  Guess who’s efforts to get ahead of the game were all for not, due to something that is completely out of his control?  Chalk another one up for the universe…  I would hate to actually see the scoreboard.
Well, at least there’s coffee.  I went over to the coffee shop across the street today and brought my mug, because being green is everyone’s responsibility.  I ordered a medium coffee.  The server then went over to the drip container, grabbed a disposable cup, filled it, poured it into my mug and then proceeded to throw out the disposable cup.   She walked back to the counter and handed my mug to me as though the look I was giving her was not one that said, “that was the most ludicrous thing I have ever seen in my life”.

Doing my part,

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Goin' Yard

I play on a couple of softball teams over the summer.  Awesome game.

I play on a men's league team and on a co-ed team.  For some reason that I can't really explain, this season I just am not hitting on my co-ed team.  I lead my men's league team in a bunch of statistical categories, but I can't seem to carry it over to co-ed.  It makes no sense, since my men's league's talent level is much higher than in my co-ed league, so the D is much worse.

In any case, this past week my girlfriend decided to come out and watch my co-ed game.  My girlfriend can be aloof and easily distracted sometimes.  This, and she really isn't into sports in the slightest.  Regardless, she came to watch.  So, naturally, I wanted to put on a show.

This day I had been hitting the ball hard all game.  A lot of hard hit balls, with nothing to show for it.  Story of my life in this league it seems.  Until my next at-bat.

I launch a moon shot that still may not have landed yet...  I trot around the path and cross the plate, returning to the bench feeling pretty good about myself.

I sit next to my girlfriend on the bench and I say, "You see that?"

She says, "No.  Why?"

2 for 5 Regards,

Friday, July 6, 2012

Prague Epilogue

As I mentioned in my last post, I went on a trip to Europe last year.  It was an experience of a lifetime to say the least.  As a guy with a full time job, the opportunities to hoof it around a foreign continent for 3 weeks at a time are getting fewer and further between.

After finally arriving in Paris, my girlfriend and I spent the next week bouncing around Italy before we made our way to Munich.  This city was incredible.  On this trip, which took us through 5 different countries, this stop was by far my favourite.  Maybe it had something to do with the North American feel.  Maybe it had something to do with the big time support for Bayern Munich.  But it probably had mostly to do with the fact that they only served beer a litre at a time.  There is something pretty sweet about seeing people popping out to a beer garden at lunch.  It takes a special place to let you sit down for lunch and be able order with a straight face by asking, “Could I please have 3 beers in a single glass with my wiener schnitzel?”

So after my great few days in Munich, which included a very heavy trip to Dachau along the way, it was time to move on.  Next on the agenda: Prague.  The beautiful city which awaited us was a quick stop on our way to Berlin.  If you read my last post, you may remember that we tried not to have too firm of an itinerary so that we could be flexible if we ended up wanting to spend more time in a city that we were visiting.  Since we had made up our minds to move on, I booked our next hostel in Prague for a two night stay, the day before we were going to leave Munich.  

So we strapped on our packs and made our way to the train station.  Since we were making use of a rail pass, you typically need to book a seat reservation in order to use the pass.  These reservations turn out to be pretty expensive by the way…  I actually couldn’t believe how much rail travel ended up costing us.  But I digress.  This particular train that we were taking from Munich to Prague didn’t require a reservation, as it was more of a commuter train.  It was much like the GO Train that we have here in Toronto.  So all we had to do was arrive at the station, and find ourselves a seat on the train.  We locate the track that the train was boarding from, and lucky for us the train was there waiting for us under a big sign that says ‘Praha’.

After finding the train, I noticed that each car seemed to have a different city listed on it.  Naturally, we march down the platform looking for the train car marked for Prague.  Well… we get to the end of the platform, and no car marked for Prague.  We figured at this point, that since Prague was the end of the line, any car would be fine.  So we find ourselves a seat on the final car, since we were sick of walking with our packs at this point.  It’s right about now that I begin to feel uneasy…
Why wouldn’t any of the cars be marked for Prague?  Why did every other car have a different city identified?  What am I missing here?  I tell my girlfriend to watch our stuff while I attempt to figure out if I’m euchring myself by just assuming that we are in the right spot.  I step back out onto the platform to see a group of people speaking with a staff member.  As I get closer, I can see that the woman who worked at the train station was pretty vexed at this point.  Once I got close enough to actually hear what she was saying, she was waving her arms in the air as though to call a runner safe and saying, “No Prague!”

…I’m sorry, what?  Yes Prague!

She repeated herself, “No Prague!  Not today!”

Are you kidding me?  Why the hell not?!

This staff member was up to her eyeballs with people, so I moved on to find someone else to talk to.  I managed to find someone who had a handle on the situation, and a better handle on English as well.  They broke the news to me.  In true Murph fashion, the Czech Republic decided to have a rail strike on the VERY MORNING I decided to enter their country.  

So rail company… even though you knew very well that the train couldn’t get in to the country, you still mark the sign as if the train will end up in Prague?!  Ridiculous!  If I hadn’t had the uneasy feeling my girlfriend and I would have ridden the train to the Czech-German border, where we would have basically been told, “You’re SOL.  Get off the train”.

I get on my horse back to my girlfriend, who is eagerly awaiting the train to leave to head to the city she wanted to visit the most.  I hate being the bearer of bad news.

Now it’s decision time…  What do we do?
Fly there?
Take a bus?
If we can get into Prague, can we get out?
We already have our money sunk on this rail pass, can we afford to get there another way?

Since we weren’t in a rush, we went to the station’s Starbucks to weigh our options.  (BTW, free Starbucks wi-fi is just about the best thing for a scrambling traveler)  Remember how I referred to Prague as a beautiful city?  Well, that’s just what I saw in my tour book.  We ultimately decided that Prague wasn’t much of an option at this point, and we should go straight to Berlin.

Chalk me up for another prepaid accommodation I never got to use…

There was a train leaving for Berlin shortly, and we would need to hurry to book our seat reservations before the train left.  As a result, we didn’t have time to book our next hostel before we left Munich.
The train ride to Berlin consisted of some of the least enjoyable hours of my life.  I don’t know if you guys have ever traveled with someone you were dating, but you know how when someone starts to sulk, you can leave them be and go about your business?  Nuh-uh.  Not for this guy.  Trapped with a sulker for multiple hours is easily much worse than it already crappily sounds.  As much as I knew she wasn’t blaming me for what happened, she sure as hell tried to make it sound like it was my fault.  She’s right; I probably should have spent that day we were at Dachau collectively bargaining for the rail union instead.  How selfish of me…
The one bright spot of that train ride was the German children sitting in front of me.  As we rode past an IKEA, they pho-net-ic-all-y screamed, “Ick-ee-ah!”. 

It’s the little things.

So we arrive in Berlin, to an airport of a train station that they had recently built for the 2006 World Cup.  We now need to find a place to stay.
We manage to find an internet cafĂ©, and get down to business.  I figure after the letdown of the morning, a private room at our hostel was in order.

I find a place on hostelworld and away we go.  By the end of our time in Berlin, we realized that everything you wanted to get to was EASILY accessible by transit.  This hostel I booked?  The hardest place to get to in the entire city, I kid you not.  Anyone want to fashion a guess as to the establishment's level of quality?  Ridiculous.  

As soon as we walked in the place, I told the guy in charge that we would only be staying for one night.  What a hole.  Our room?  No sheets or duvet cover.  There was a clear aroma of urine in certain parts of the room.  Romantic.

When we went to shower after we checked in, I wouldn’t let my girlfriend go shower alone.  I literally sat and watched the door from the inside of the bathroom.  Sketchfest.

So needless to say, once we were glad to have survived the night, we went and checked into a dorm style chain.  Our roommates seemingly all had a cold.  I have never been so happy to share a room with 5 other people in my life.

Booking refundable hotels from now on,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Getting to Europe 2011

So, today is the day that I finally got around to starting this blog.  I am a fairly busy guy, and despite people always telling me I need to start writing this stuff down, I never had the time.  Today, however, I have the time.  I am currently using the wi-fi at LaGuardia airport in NYC to write this post.

I have been on a plane many times in my life for work, vacation, you name it.  As we all know air travel is all kinds of reliable... (it's now that I should probably point out that pretty much everything I say is dripping with sarcasm).  Well, in my lifetime I haven't had it that bad in terms of air travel given my reasonable volume.  That is to say, it hadn't been that bad up until about a year ago.

This story starts last June, when my girlfriend and I decided to go on a 3 week tour of Europe.  Neither of us having done anything like this before, we were naturally pretty stoked.  Our plan was to bounce around via a rail pass, and we didn't have a fixed itinerary at all.  The only fact that we knew was that we would be leaving on a certain day, and would be flying to Paris.

One of my girlfriend's parents works for a major US Airline, and as such has certain privileges for friends/family.  The hitch in this "privilege" is that you have to fly standby, and you still have to pay for it.  Mind you, it is significantly reduced, but you pay for it nonetheless.  My girlfriend has been travelling this way her entire life, and she assured me that it was, "no big deal".

I trusted her, so I said sure, let's fly into Paris through JFK (because all flights on the US airline need to connect in a US city before they head out for the destination).  So, we leave Toronto at the crack of dawn, for our 4 pm connection to Paris in NYC.  This gave us a long layover, so we were able to meet a friend of hers in for the day and hit up a few spots in the city while we waited.

We return from tourist-ing it up and are awaiting our flight.  The standby moment of truth comes at the gate, and neither of us were able to get a seat because the flight was full.  "No problem!" the gate agent says, as they roll us over to the standby list for the 9 pm flight later that night.  While we are waiting for the next flight we are talking with the gate agents (who are brutal at JFK for this particular airline btw) and it is becoming very clear that we will not be able to get on this flight either.  As it is the last flight of the day, we start discussing our options.  Given that we have a rail pass, she says, "let's just get to Europe and figure it out".  Well, remember how we didn't have an itinerary and only knew that we were going to Paris first?  Yeah.. well this guy decided to book a non-refundable hotel online for our expected stay in Paris...  So, we have money sunk in Paris and need to get there.  We figure: we get to Europe, jump on a train to Paris and the adventure can continue.  No harm done.

We asked the agent which flights were leaving for Europe, the rest of the day.  Our best option was to get on a flight to London that was leaving soon.  So we run over to the gate, and when we get there they tell us that they have seats for us.  Perfect!  Not even close.  They had seats, but they wouldn't be able to get our bags on the plane in time as they were supposed to be going to Paris.  So, gate agent, you expect us to go backpacking across Europe sans backpacks?  Apparently you came to work sans common sense today...

We inevitably decide that we can't go anywhere without our bags.  So we ask the agent what the next step was.  They told us they would roll us over to the next London flight later that night, but we would need to go pickup our bags at baggage claim and re-check in (as it would be like missing the second Paris flight we were originally supposed to be on).  So fine, down to the claim area.  After 30 minutes of waiting for our bags to show on the carousel, we realized that we hadn't checked in yet (and you need to check in for a flight 1 hour before by rule) and it was a little over an hour from takeoff.  Security wasn't an issue as it was night time at this point, so we just needed our bags!

Time to deal with the baggage rep now.  They basically tell us that they can't find our bags right now, but they guarantee that they will get on the plane and we should just check in.  Alright, off to check-in.  We get to check-in and now a very memorable woman who was more interested in flipping her magazine than helping us says, "there is no way you are going to get on this London flight, or the Paris flight."  (Are you seeing the trend here??)

This, I am pretty sure, is were my girlfriend decided to sprinkle in a little nervous breakdown.  But hey, "No Big Deal!" right?  Let me tell you, seeing somebody heaped on the JFK floor in the fetal position was exactly how I envisioned my trip to Paris...

So, what are our options now?  We check out our rail maps, and figure out our options.  We decide that since the flights to Paris the next day look full, we are going to punt Paris and fly to Rome.  No France on this trip.  C'est la vie... Tabernac.  So the magazine flipper tells us to head down and claim our bags, and come check in for the Rome flight in the morning.

Off to baggage claim.  The geniuses down there still can't find our bags.  So they wouldn't have been on the London flight even if we got on.  We say, "screw the bags".  We headed off to a flea bag airport hotel while they searched overnight for our bags.

The hotel was an experience unto itself, but I'll spare you that speed bump on this road..

Back to JFK in the morning, in the same clothes that we were wearing all day the day before, because our bags are who knows where...

En route to JFK, we get a call from my girlfriend's parent who works for the airline.  She says, "You're not going to believe this.  Your bags are in Paris.  They couldn't get them off of the first flight you were supposed to get on" the words of Seth Meyers a la Weekend Update:  Really, Airline Reps?  In the 6 hours we were rotting in JFK yesterday, you couldn't have figured out that our bags weren't in the country?  Really?  You had us run around, and wait for our bags on 2 separate occasions?  Really?  Really?!?!

Now what the hell are we supposed to do?  We rearranged our whole trip plan based on the fact that we couldn't get to Paris.  While I was off cursing all that is the state of New York, my girlfriend figured out that there was a 6 pm flight to Paris out of Boston, that we should be able to get on.  Alright, options time.  Rental car?  This was going to be over $350 to drop a rental off at Logan from JFK.  Steep.  And, we barely had enough time to drive there and make the flight.  So it would have to go perfectly.  Not perfect but can be done.  Before I booked the car, I found out that my girlfriend was able to dig up that there were 3 flights out of LaGuardia to Boston which would get us there on time for this Paris flight.  No brainer.  Since we didn't have bags, flagged down a cab and off to LGA we went.

Long LGA to Boston story short:

Flight #1:
Only one seat open.  I told her to go, and I would get the next one.  She said there was no way she was splitting up... Okay...  This sounds like a terrible idea.

Flight #2:
Zero seats for either of us...

Flight #3:
This one will just get us there in time for the Paris flight, but not by much... By this time, we had made good friends with the LGA staff, who were incredible.  I couldn't believe they were from the same company as the god awful people at JFK.  Flight #3 isn't looking good.  A few pilots showed up close to boarding and bumped us down the priority list...  The staff knew how desperate we were at this point and forced the pilots to sit in jump seats (basically seats that fold off the wall) and get the weight restriction lifted from the plane all in the name of helping us out.  But, we got seats.. and business class no less.  For fuck sakes, thank God!
Mind you, at this point I looked like I might have a nervous breakdown and get deported home if things didn't go well, so they may have just wanted to get rid of the threat I was becoming.  Thank you LGA staff from an airline that will remain nameless, your efforts will not be forgotten.  The clerk from the gate even came to see us on the plane and wish us luck the rest of the way.

Land in Boston, and we are slightly delayed.  Delay = gate changed to the opposite end of the airport.  Seriously?  What next?

So I sprint to the gate, while my girlfriend lags behind (much like Jerry and Elaine with her little steps in that classic Seinfeld bit).  Too funny, but laughing time is over (Rainier Wolfcastle anyone?).  I get to the gate to see that we had been cleared to board the plane, and all was well in the world.

We arrive in Paris to find our bags, seemingly at the end of a beam of light from the heavens.  Cue the angel sound-byte.

So all in all, we lost a day in Paris and a night at a non-refundable hotel, and were only one nervous breakdown worse for wear.

I said never again to standby.  (I actually caved and did it one more time.  Any guesses how that went...?) 

The fact that I refuse to fly standby anymore leads me to why I am currently sitting at LaGuardia.  My girlfriend and I are travelling to Naples for a wedding.  She flew standby on a different airline.  My confirmed connecting flight on Delta out of NYC was cancelled due to mechanical reasons...  I get to enjoy 420 New York Minutes waiting for the next flight while she is yucking it up in Florida.

Racking up frequent flyer miles,

You Can Call Me Murph

For most of my adult life, I have been the unfortunate victim of some, well actually a ton, of bad luck.  Fortunately for you, I have been convinced by many to start cataloging my misfortune.  Hopefully this blog will be able to bring you some amusement, as I can assure you that the events I re-tell won't bring me much...

My friends have begun referring to me as Murphy due to my seeming continued bad luck.  Some have even referred to it as a curse.  I don't necessarily believe in curses, and I don't necessarily believe in luck.  However, I do believe in probability. And the probability of the cloud of crap that has followed me around being 'random coincidence' is a tough rationale to swallow.

Now, I don't want to give the wrong impression.  I am a successful and healthy male in my twenties.  I am not attempting to say that I have it the worst.  There are those who do not have their health, or the opportunities that I have had presented to me in my life and I am very cognizant of this fact.

That being said, FML this is getting ridiculous.  My misfortune is more of the "you've got to be fucking kidding me", or the "No, that didn't actually happen..." variety.  It is a seemingly endless stream of nuisance and inconvenience that I can only assume is the universe's way of toughening me up to handle some serious adversity later in life, like a zombie apocalypse, or a world without peanut butter.

I hope you enjoy my accounts of the ridiculousness that I live through.  If after reading anything here you feel the need to scream, "I call bullshit!".  I can assure you that any of the shit I may talk  doesn't come from any bull.

Regrettably yours,